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Bf 110

Messerschmitt Zerstorer of the German Luftwaffe

Bf 110

Messerschmitt Bf 110
Type: Heavy fighter plane, Zerstorer (destroyer), fighter-bomber, night fighter
History: As in five other countries at about the same time, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium decided in 1934 to issue a requirement for a new kind of fighter having two engines and exceptional range. Called a Zerstorer (destroyer), it was to be as capable as small single-seaters of fighting other aircraft, possibly making up in firepower for any lack in manoeuvrability.

Bf 110 C with sharkmouth
Although occasionally adopted by other units, the 'sharkmouth' decoration, shown on this Bf 110 C, usually denoted aircraft of Zerstorergeschwader 76, the 'Haifisch' (shark) Group, which became operational in spring 1940. The concentration of forward-firing guns was formidable, but the Bf 110 was only light defended to the rear.

Its dominant quality was to be range, to escort bombers on raids penetrating deep into enemy heartlands Powered by two of the new DB 600 engines. The prototype reached 316 mph, considered an excellent speed, but it was heavy on the controls and unimpressive in power of manoeuvre. Too late to be tested in the Spanish Civil War, the production Bf 110 B-1, which was the first to carry the two cannon, was itself supplanted by the Messerschmitt Bf 110 C-series with the later DB 601 engine with direct fuel injection and greater power at all heights.

Messerschmitt Bf 110 C-4 on ground in Western Desert
Messerschmitt Bf 110 C-4 of ZG76 creates its own sandstorm in the Western Desert in the winter 1941-42.

By the start of WW2 the Luftwaffe had 195 Bf 110 C fighters, and in the Polish campaign these were impressive, operating mainly in the close-support role but demolishing any aerial opposition they encountered. It was the same story in the Blitzkrieg war through the Low Countries and France, when 350 of the big twins were used. Only when faced with RAF Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain did the Zerstorer suddenly prove a disaster. It was simply no match for the Spitfire or even the Hurricane, and soon the Messerschmitt Bf 109 was having to escort the escort fighters !

Me 110 D-1 of ZG26 over Mediterranean
Two Bf 110 D-1 of ZG26, soon after the Luftwaffe first went to Africa in 1941. Sand Yellow all over, with white theatre band.

But production of DB 605-powered versions, packed with radar and night-fighting equipment, was actually trebled in 1943 and sustained in 1944, these G and H models playing a major part in the night battles over the Reich in 1943-45.

Bf 110 F night fighters
Two Bf 110 Fs in all-black night fighter finish and bearing the markings of Nachtjagdgeschwader 4.

Bf 110 D from ZG26
An unidentified trio of D-type Zerstorer's. They are probably from ZG26 newly assigned to the North African theatre.

Bf 110 at the Eastern Front
Brown is the perfect colour of this Messerschmitt Zerstorer over the Eastern front, with yellow theatre band.

Bf 110 D long range fighter
Messerschmitt Bf 110 D long range fighter with 'dachshund-belly' ventral fuel tank.

Bf 110 D of ZG 26 over Sicily
Bf 110 D of ZG26 climbing out of rugged territory in Sicily in 1942 to rendezvous with a bomber force for Malta.

Messerschmitt Bf 110 C-4
Zerstoerer and fighter-bomber
Power plant
2 x 1200 PS Daimler-Benz DB 601N 12-cylinder inverted-vee liquid-cooled engines
Wing span
53 ft 4 3/4 in
Length overall
39 ft 8 1/2 in
Height overall
11 ft 6 in
Weight empty
9,920 lb
Weight loaded
15,430 lb
Maximum speed
349 mph
at height
22,966 ft
Cruising speed
304 mph
at height
19,405 ft
Time to height
18,045 ft
in approx
8.0 min
Service ceiling
32,800 ft
528 miles (without drop tanks)
Two 20 mm Oerlikon MG FF cannon [540 rpm] and four 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns [1200 rpm, velocity 2477 ft.sec.] in nose
one 7.92 mm MG 15 manually amimed machine gun in rear cockpit
racks under centre section for four 551 lb bombs
First flight
12 May 1936
Operational service Bf 110 C-1
April 1939
service delivery Bf 110 F
early 1941
production start night fighter F-4
Final delivery ( Bf 110 H night fighter)
February 1945
Total production figure (all)
Accepted by Luftwaffe 1/39-12/44
Production 1939
Production 1940
Production 1941
Production 1942 (without night fighters)
Production 1943
(without night fighters)
Production 1944
(without night fighters)
Bf110's in First Line Units 1.9.39
Bf110's in First Line Units 20.9.42
Bf110's in First Line Units 31.12.42
Bf110's in First Line Units 10.1.45
395 (all night fighters)

3d model Messerschmitt Bf 110 F
3d model Messerschmitt Zerstorer


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